Buffalo Wild Wings' CEO Presents at Wells Fargo Securities Retail & Restaurants Summit (Transcript)

Oct. 1.13 | About: Buffalo Wild (BWLD)

Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD)

Wells Fargo Securities Retail & Restaurants Summit Conference Call

October 1, 2013, 10:25 am ET


Sally Smith - President, Chief Executive Officer, Director

Mary Twinem - Chief Financial Officer, Executive Vice President, Treasurer


Jeff Farmer - Wells Fargo

Jeff Farmer - Wells Fargo

Good morning, again, everyone. Next presenting company is Buffalo Wild Wings, owner, operator, franchiser of more than 940 Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants in 49 states and Canada. The company has delivered almost 4% same-store sales growth in the second quarter and has been the same-store sales growth in the casual dining sector for years by a wide margin. To be a little bit more specific, Buffalo Wild Wings outperformed the casual dining peer group same-store sales number by an average of 5% over the last four quarters and by an average of 6% over the last five years.

Here to share more about the Buffalo Wild Wings story is Sally Smith, CEO and Mary Twinem, CFO. Thank you, both, for being here and with that, I will turn it over to Sally.

Sally Smith

All right. Thanks, Jeff and its great to be here this morning. We always like talking about Buffalo Wild Wings. As Jeff said, I am Sally Smith, President and CEO and joining me is Mary Twinem, our Chief Financial Officer. Our presentation today will provide an overview of Buffalo Wild Wings and provide insight to our strategic focus on sustained long-term growth.

I know you can read. This is our safe harbor statement. So read carefully as part of your review of this presentation. If our presentation does include forward-looking statements and you should not place undue reliance on them.

I am going to talk about our business strategies that you fuel our growth and Mary is going to review our financial performance. Then I will be coming back to talk a little bit about what we are doing today and what we plan to do in the future to continue driving the long-term growth of Buffalo Wild Wings as we expand our presence in North America and internationally.

Buffalo Wild Wings is a established proven restaurant chain with over 30 years of operations since the opening of the first location near the campus of Ohio State University. We have built a track record of successful growth since becoming a public company ten years ago and we think there are several reasons for our success.

First an exceptional guest experience. I am going to expand on the guest experience in a few minutes.

Second I would say our stable leadership team has a true passion for our brand. Most of the leadership group has worked together at Buffalo Wild Wings for more than ten years. I had joined the company in 1994. Celebrated my nineteenth anniversary this month. Mary joined a couple of months later. James Schmidt, our Chief Operating Officer has been associated with the company since 1985. He joined the company in 2002 as a member of our leadership team. Judy Shoulak who heads up North American operations and Kathy Benning who leads global brand and business development have both been with the company for more than 10 years. I think its exactly like 12 or 13 years.

Third, we love to grow and we like to do it in a disciplined manner. Our focus on our guest has built brand loyalty. Our operations have generated the cash to fund our significant domestic growth. We are opening our first international franchise location this year and we are making strategic investments in emerging restaurant brands for future growth.

So what does Buffalo Wild Wings looks like today? Well, we have evolved steadily since our first location at the college bar in 1982. We are suburban base sports grill and bar with a full menu that has broad appeal as a community-based hangout. As our tagline says so simply, we are all about wings, beer and sports. Today we have actually 951 restaurants in 49 states, two opened yesterday, and in Canada, of which 44% are company-owned approaching our targeted 50% company ownership in North America. We have a good runway remaining for growth in the United States and Canada at just 55% of our ultimate goal of 1,700 locations.

Our system-wide sales reached $2.5 billion in 2012. Our revenue and net earnings have shown significant growth year-after-year and we have a healthy balance sheet. While we take pride in our 30 years of business success, we also understand that we must continue to be a contemporary and vibrant brand for our guests and therefore we must always be evolving and innovating our guest experience whether through out menu, our facilities, our service strategy, our technology platform. We believe that this focus on a unique guest experience will maintain our position in the restaurant industry as the sports bar of choice.

First, our craveable menu. We are known for our award-winning Buffalo New York style chicken wings that are spun in 21 of our signature sauces or seasonings. We showcase our sauces and seasonings with our traditional and boneless wings and we encourage our guests to customize a wide variety of menu items like burgers, sandwiches and potato wedges and fries with their favorite flavor.

Beyond wings, we do offer a full menu from appetizers to desserts, burgers to flat breads that appeal to a wide variety of guests. Many of our menu items are shareables and perfect for enjoying while watching the game with your family or friends. For football season our menu panel features a lineup of great shareables, fried pickles, cheese curds, a Midwest favorite and Not Your Ordinary rings which are onion rings topped with prime rib, cheese, fried mushrooms and gravy. I think all four food groups.

For those for lighter fare, we have the Garden Crasher vegetable platter. All of these are great options to share with friends while you are cheering on your favorite team. Our extensive selection of draft beer is the perfect complement to our signature wings. We feature about 30 draft beers in most of our locations including a focus on local craft favorites.

In addition, we have a wide selection of bottled beers complemented by a full bar. In 2012 Buffalo Wild Wings was awarded the best beer program among all chain in multi-concept restaurants in the United States. In July we launched Game Changer ale developed in collaboration with Redhook Brewery and with input from our guests. It's a premium craft beer designed to go perfectly with our wings that really is delicious. Its targeted for broad appeal to both drive sales and improve beer margins. The initial launch has been a great success and since then it has remained in the top five of the best-selling draft beers in our company-owned stores.

In July, we rolled out a new menu updates our menu servings for traditional and boneless wings to wings by portion. Our new servings allow us to serve a more consistent portion of meat to our guests when the size of wings fluctuates which it has been. Our new are defined as snack, small, medium and large portions with at least amounts noted on the menu. The graphic on the slide is the table card that was in our restaurants when the new menu rolled and explain the servings to our guest. We focused significantly on training our managers, franchisees and team members to help our guests through this transition.

With the July menu rollout we took price increases that would approximate about 1% increase to restaurant sales. This paired with the wing market that has our cost per traditional for per pound of traditional wings at about $1.64 per pound in the first two months of our third quarter should aid our across the sales margin in the back half of 2013.

Next our facilities. Regardless of address, Buffalo Wild Wings locations are designed to stand out with inviting curb appeal. This slide is a picture of our existing base of restaurants, with the bold yellow wedge and black white and yellow check accents which capture attention and align to our bold brand strategy. In 2012 we updated our logo which is shown on the right with a more muscular and athletic look to our iconic Buffalo and a sportier font for our name and incorporated our wings, beers, sports tagline in our logo.

We have also begun building our restaurants with a new facility design shown here with new signage and integrated patio and a separate takeout entrance. In the interior, the finishes and furniture packages are more modern and the bar centrally located with an awesome audiovisual, as we say, there is no bad seat in the house. The overarching design theme was to create an atmosphere that feels like being a stadium keeping the game at the focal point and we think the central bar with the Jumbotrons style big screens over the bar does just that.

I also mentioned our service strategy is an important aspect of our guest experience. Our service strategy has evolved over the last 30 years from toner service to now been predominantly full service. During 2012, we began adding an additional position, the guest experience captain to support our guest experience business model and further differentiate our brand. Our captains are responsible for engaging our guests with our technology, our programs and our promotions and our technology platform of the future.

We now have tabletop tablets in several markets and plan have them in about 100 locations by the end of the year. This platform provides an interactive gaming experience and we will be integrating music and ordering from the menu capabilities in the future. In addition to gaming, we have developed exclusive and interactive sports content for our TVs and our new B-Dubs network is engaging our guests in several test markets and we have plans to roll it more broadly next year.

With that overview of our brand. I will turn it over to Mary to review our financial performance.

Mary Twinem

Thank you, Sally. In the slides that follow, I will provide an overview of our financial results that illustrate how our performance positions us to continue to grow and deliver value to our shareholders.

Unit growth is key to our net earnings growth. This illustration depicts our earnings growth over the past five years, a compounded annual growth rate of over 13%. In 2011, we opened 102 new locations system wide and closed or relocated 17 older locations primarily as part of our strategy to revitalize mature markets. This provided unit growth of 12%. In 2012, we opened up 51 new company-owned and 41 new franchised restaurants and we also acquired 18 locations from our franchisees. This increased our company-owned unit by 19% and the overall system by 9%. Then for 2013, our goal is to open approximately 100 new locations with about 55 being company-owned and 45 being franchised locations. In addition, we have purchased three franchised units during the first half of the year.

Our revenue growth over the past five years represents a compounded annual growth rate of 25%. Year-to-date, in 2013 we have achieved growth of 24% over the prior-year. Our revenue growth is the result of our ongoing unit growth and increased company-owned locations. Our substantial growth in average unit volumes for new restaurant and same-store sales that outpaced the casual dining industry. And I will show you those in the next slide.

The average volumes of our locations have grown significantly since becoming a public company almost 10 years ago. During the past five years have grown by 28% at company-owned and 19% at our franchise locations.

We are proud of our historically strong same-store sales as shown on this chart with our company-owned restaurants in gold, franchised locations in orange and we consistently outpace casual dining trends which are shown in black. For 2012, our same-store sales were 6.6% at company-owned restaurants and 6.5% at franchised restaurants. In the first half of 2013 our same-store sales were 2.6% and 3.1% above the casual dining industry at negative 0.9% as reported by black box.

In our July call, we shared that our same-store sales for the first four weeks of July were churning at 1.5% at our company-owned locations and 1.2% at franchised locations. That's up from prior-year trends for the similar period of 6.8% and 7.3%. The first four weeks of July 2013 were negatively impacted by about 120 basis points as we had one less UFC fight this year versus last year. We will provide an update on our same-store sales trends in our upcoming earnings call in October.

Outpacing our aggressive unit growth is our net earnings growth. In the last five years we have achieved a compounded annual growth rate of 24% on unit growth of 13%. Leveraging as we grow has been and remains an ongoing priority.

Our balance sheet is strong. On June 30, we had $30 million in cash and marketable securities, $596 million in total assets and $421 million in stockholders equity. Our ability to generate substantial cash flow from operations which totaled $145 million in 2012 enables us to fund our unit expansion both domestically and internationally and commit capital improvement dollars to relocate and update our facilities which provides our guests with the highest-quality experience.

We have a three-year $100 million unsecured line of credit in place that allows us to remain nimble for future investments in either franchised acquisitions or emerging brands. As of June 30, the line of credit had a zero balance.

In our 10-Q filed on August 7, we stated our 2013 annual net earnings growth goal was 17% for 2013 when calculated on full year 2012 which equates to 25% on a 52-week basis. We will update on our net earnings progress in our earnings call at the end of the month and also update our outlook for net earnings growth for the year at that time.

So with that review of our business performance, I will turn it back to Sally to review our growth strategy.

Sally Smith

Thanks, Mary. The long-term growth strategy for Buffalo Wild Wings is based on our solid financial footing which Mary shared with you, our excellent business model and our proven performance. Growth has been and will continue to be driven primarily by a continued unit growth in the United States and Canada. We will also drive sales through menu innovation and increased brand awareness. We are beginning to execute on longer-term strategies for growth through international franchising and emerging brands.

The Buffalo Wild Wings experience reaches from coast-to-coast. I love this map. I have loved watching it filling as we have, over the past 10 years, as we have shared with you, we have a significant presence of course in our birthplace of Ohio and we are proud of our purposeful growth across the United States. Texas has surpassed Ohio in unit count with 89 restaurants and we expect Texas to exceed 100 units as we continue to build out that state. The West Coast, with California at 52 locations, represent a tremendous opportunity for development and we are actively developing from Seattle to San Diego.

Then on the Northeast. Along with the mid-Atlantic states there is an opportunity for new and continued build out of markets and you will see Buffalo Wild Wings popping up from Miami to Philadelphia to the state of Maine and new locations are being added in Massachusetts. When you combine the geographic opportunities remaining in the high density markets on both coasts and in Canada, with our prudent and consistent unit growth year-after-year we have a confident outlook on our future expansion to 1,700 restaurants.

Along with the growth in North America, we are expanding internationally with franchisees in active development in Mexico and the UAE and we expect to have three to five locations opened by year-end. We were a franchisee in the Philippines who expects to open their first location in early 2014 and additional areas of interest by very strong franchisees include India, Vietnam and Malaysia. Very exciting for us.

For the longer term growth, we are investing in emerging brands that we believe have the potential for national expansion. Our first investment is a minority interest in PizzaRev, a five unit fast casual made-to-order pizza concept based in Los Angeles. It's a well-run concept with an awesome product and we are excited to help them grow. We expect to open the first company-owned PizzaRev's in the Minneapolis area in early 2014 and we are excited to see how the concept works in the Midwest.

We will drive sales through innovation and branding. At the heart of our strategy is menu innovation, maximizing the guest experience and further building the Buffalo Wild Wings brand. To drive revenue, we will continue to innovate our menu and research ways to optimize our food and beverage offerings. Wings, shareables and our signature flavors will continue to be a focus in 2014. We will also continue to adapt the new trends and preferences of our guests.

We are currently testing a variety of new products including variations to our wings, healthy salads, shareable appetizers, lunch options and desserts. We are focused on expanding our draft beer offerings and extending our craft beer selection including additional specialty brews like Game Changer ale in the future and we will continue to offer our popular value days, Wing Tuesdays and Boneless Thursdays.

We are investing in the sports viewing experience. Its essential that we stay current with the latest video and audio technologies to provide our guests with a high-energy sports viewing experience creating an atmosphere that ensures there's no better place to watch their favorite team. We have entered into an agreement with DirecTV to carry every game they have available. We call it any game, anywhere. So if it's showing, you should be able to watch it in a Buffalo Wild Wings. We have already talked about the B-Dubs TV and our technology platform all critical to keeping the game day experience vibrant in the future.

We couldn't our presentation go by without talking about our advertising. We maintain an advertising and sponsorship presence with sports icons like ESPN, Fox Sports and other sports broadcast networks and our partnership with the NCAA and our Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl are all about engaging sports fans with our brand. As the official hangout of March Madness, our partnership with the NCAA carries throughout 2016 with all 89 NCAA sports.

You may have noticed if you are football fan, some of our new commercials that are hearing and I would like to show you if you haven't seen them, those that our campaign this fall. The first is called Anthem and it shows what Buffalo Wild Wings is all about on college football game day.


Then as part of our campaign, the next commercial introduces Coach who appears in our ad campaign this fall.


There are two more commercials that play in that rotation. So hopefully you will have a chance them this fall. In closing, Buffalo Wild Wings is a growing dynamic brand. Our operational and financial performance have been solid year-after-year. Our path to growth is clear and we intend to pursue it with a disciplined approach that we believe will deliver enhanced shareholder value for years to come. We hope you have a chance to visit Buffalo Wild Wings in the future and on your travels and enjoy some hot wings, ice cold beer and watch your favorite team.

Thanks for your time and also for your interest in Buffalo Wild Wings.

Question-and-Answer Session

Jeff Farmer - Wells Fargo

Our plan is open it up to questions. So if anyone does have a question, please feel. Got it.

Unidentified Analyst

With one of your core products being beer and your goal to expand into Saudi Arabia and UAE, how do you reconcile that?

Sally Smith

Actually we will not be serving alcohol in the Middle East. Most of the concepts over there don't unless you are associated with a hotel. The group that's developing found us, many of them attended, were part of this the company, were in college here and they love the concept. We will still have a bar over. They sell a lot of specialty drinks and desserts but beer won't be a part of it.

Jeff Farmer - Wells Fargo

Anyone else? Thank you. love the concept. A quick question on the investment strategy. Can you just talk about the long-term goal? Is it identify trends that you can apply in wings? Is it to grow a multi brand portfolio?

Sally Smith

Our investment strategy in emerging brands?

Jeff Farmer - Wells Fargo

Emerging brands and then is that similar target size you are going to look at going forward from a minority perspective or do you have an interest for controlling larger brands as a portfolio actually?

Sally Smith

Sure. We have taken an approach, probably very similar to private equity, although we are more interested in minority and much smaller, in that we want to invest in three, five, seven small concepts that we think that meet some certain guardrails as we call them that have the potential to become a national presence. Our first investment is PizzaRev. We look at our runway of growth and as I mentioned we love being a growth company. We still have that 55% penetration on the 1,700 number. We still have a long way to go but if you want to continue to grow you have to be thinking today what you want to do five, seven, ten years out. So our investment in this emerging brands and hopefully others will provide that growth. We want to be franchiseable. I have got a franchise network that we got great relationships and they want to grow with us. They used to work in Los Angeles and Des Moines, Iowa and Boston, Massachusetts. So it has a national footprint. Simple operations. Again probably excluding fine dining and probably excluding quick service. We don't have expertise in that area but looking to see not just on trends but is there a defining experience or food or something again that that we think we can capitalize in the next 10 years. Hopefully, one will make it. If we are lucky and we invest wisely and with the right partners, more than one will make it and eventually we will have the opportunity, we think, to either have an exit strategy through their continued growth or buy it ourselves.

Jeff Farmer - Wells Fargo

Over the last four quarters, you have prettily handily beaten out, I think it's almost 5%. Any reason to believe that you cannot continue that momentum through the balance of '13 into '14?

Sally Smith

Well, we expect all of our stores to comp. They need to be working on developing their customer base. We think the addition of the guest experience captains as we roll that out in 2014 gives us the opportunity through not just in restaurant but in their focus on local store marketing, engaging the community and really providing that reason to come back even if there isn't a game on to continue. That is part of her driver for same-store sales.

Jeff Farmer - Wells Fargo

Taking another stab at that one. Viewed as a less discretionary concept, when you went through the recession, you had better traffic than most other casual dining concepts. Consumers seem to have bogged down a little bit now, maybe reallocating dollars toward, again, automobiles, bigger durables, et cetera but, again, more an opinion than an editorial comments, it seems like you guys have been above and beyond that. Your consumers have a lot more loyalty. What they get at your restaurant seems less discretionary in my mind. So putting you in a box a little bit, but do you agree with that? Do you think that's fair based on what you have seen over the last decade of running this company?

Sally Smith

I do think that people still want to eat out. They are just going to able to eat out less. We want to make it a compelling reason to come to Buffalo Wild Wings with value, with something other than just food and I think I like our prospects for it.

Jeff Farmer - Wells Fargo

Okay, and then a couple other quick ones that I get asked by a lot of investors. First up, with McDonald's Mighty Wings, everyone is pretty familiar with the cold storage situation that went on there. Various third-party suppliers, commodity experts have said that they had expected it to result or when McDonald's introduced Mighty Wings, it would result in 15 bips of cost pressure per pound for the industry. It doesn't seem like we have seen that. What are your suppliers telling you now? Have we ultimately absorb the worst of what we might see? Could this get worse? Again you don't have a crystal ball but what are your thoughts?

Sally Smith

I think we saw a lot of that cost pressure in 2012 with sustained high wing prices, the highest it would ever be, (inaudible) and into the first quarter of 2013. McDonald's owns the whole bird. They used to be selling their wings on the market. They started saving their wings. So those wings weren't available. I think that pushed the price up. I think they are continuing to store there wings but the market has absorbed that pressure. If it's hugely successful I think they will continue to store their wings. But I can't see them buying on the open market. It is (inaudible) cost prohibitive.

Jeff Farmer - Wells Fargo

Pullets placements, egg sets, every other production indicator for chicken, at least on the supply fronts used to be pretty favorable.

Sally Smith

I think so.

Jeff Farmer - Wells Fargo

We never call wings benign. They are always volatile. But a couple quick other things. So transition to selling wings by portion, July 15. You gave us a little bit of color on your earnings call. Really what everyone is trying to figure out is the consumer pushback on that. Have they altered their perception or their purchase patterns? Are they using the restaurant any differently, post July 15?

Sally Smith

We will spend more time on talking about that in our third quarter conference call. We think that we executed it very well to help the guest through that transition. I think what we learned from the testing as our guests really just wanted to know how many they were going to get and by adding the at least on the menu that definitely helped. When they are in restaurants if they order the snack which is at least five, they probably noticed they have one less wing. But once we get into the bigger orders the 12, 18, they really don't. As we shared that the commentary that we heard was pretty minimal in the first couple of weeks. Now we are getting into football season. So my guess is every guest that has probably visited Buffalo Wild Wings has experienced the new service style and we will give more color on it but we did execute it very well on a training standpoint.

Jeff Farmer - Wells Fargo

I have got a couple more, but I don't want to monopolize. So anyone else have a question out there? Okay. On labor models. So this guest experience captain, I think we are all a little bit confused about what's going on in the rollout. How this all is going to impact the P&L. But you have guided 50 to 80 basis points in the 3Q and the 4Q. We know that, I think, roughly a third of the company-owned restaurants have this service. You are targeting 100% by the end of '14. What does this mean to the labor line? Back-half, well, you have given us guidance for the back half of '13 but as we get into '14, are we in a situation where, as you continue to roll out the guest experience captains to additional company-owned restaurants, are we going to see another wave of 50 to 80 bips of pressure?

Sally Smith

We have a couple of things that play in to that labor line. One, certainly the rollout of the guest experience captain and we started that test about two years ago. We are very pleased with the lift in revenue that we got in those test stores. So we rolled it out to about 130 markets now. We did take a pause because, one, we had high wing prices and yields that were going crazy and said we really want to understand what the optimal number of hours that we can have in a restaurant.

So we started with the thought that the guest experience captain would be on every shift, every hour. Maybe that’s a 120 hours and you would have more than a couple guest experience captains during a football game or fight or something like that. We have since gone back and said, you know, it doesn't really make sense to have a captain on a Wednesday lunch and rather focus on the hours where it really made sense. So we have tested both at 60 hours and 80 hours.

Obviously we want it to drive sales but also not use up that extra margin from sales in your labor line. We will also, in that 50 to 80, basis points, one of the positive factors or tailwinds, I guess is moving to a four manager format in our restaurants. We have anywhere from four to seven managers depending on volume but we have found, as we moved managers around, that they maybe didn’t have the skill set that a seven manager store probably had too much division of management.

So through attrition, through our growth in moving managers to other stores, we are going to get back to a four manager store which we do think will affect the labor line using shift leads and team leads to supplement and to provide some early management training. That allows us to do more promotion in-house of our managers which impacts the training line better for the training cost. Then new store openings which continue our unit growth and you will see some inefficiencies.

But ultimately the guest experience captain has to pay for itself and we believe we can we get there and part of that will, as for number of hours, the number of people in that position and then the additional marketing programs that they are going to be responsible for.

Jeff Farmer - Wells Fargo

Okay and then a very final question asking everyone the Affordable Care Act, latest thinking?

Sally Smith

Latest thinking? One year delay gives us a little bit more time to get ready for it. A lot of the regulations still aren’t out or the details. We are ready for it. We have done some analysis on it. We won't necessarily cut hours but what found is, you would have a core complement of people throughout the summer, the fall and as football season came, they would try to hire more people. Maybe they weren’t trained as much into pushing people into the 40 hours and overtime. We will still have kind of a number of full-time people which we offer in our restaurants. We don't think it is going to have a significant impact. We have focused our hiring the right number of people with the right number of hours. So if you have 20 hours available, hire the person that wants 20 hours not the person that wants 32 hours, so they are disappointed. We think through hiring additional part time people we will be able to mitigate.

Unidentified Analyst

And hopefully, (inaudible) of employees are actually qualified?

Sally Smith

I don't know how many.-Probably not significantly more than we have right now on healthcare or on our plan.

Unidentified Analyst


Unidentified Analyst

You may not notice off the top of your head but what will you say is the average age of your servers?

Sally Smith

Gosh, I don’t know. I mean it really varies probably from high school students to my age. Anything else? Okay, well thanks so much for the opportunity to speak with you.

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